The most difficult and indeed the most important task a peace organization faces is its sustainability. The sustainability of a peace movement should be measured in terms of its ability to recruit new members and retain existing ones. To do so the movement must establish points of access.
Points of access are the various locations the organization can use to recruit new and motivated members. By far the most obvious, and arguably the most effective location is on college campuses throughout the United States. Despite their coursework, university students have lots of time for social interaction, which is a major part of the college experience—in fact, it is an expectation for many new students.
But college campuses are just one of many points of access peace organizations can use to their advantage. Unfortunately, women and children are typically targeted for crimes of violence and abuse. Battered women’s shelters can also serve as effective points of access as women and their children transition from dependent and abusive environments to independent and supportive ones.
Though the college campus may present more opportunities for recruiting members, the battered women’s shelter would probably attract more motivated membership. Gradually, in sharing their stories, these women could facilitate the organization’s expansion by personalizing their experiences with violence.
Points of access, however, need not be limited to geographic locations. 21st century organizers can and must use virtual communities to aid in recruiting new members. Blogs, forums, and message boards are great tools for attracting new members, and since they’re based on the internet, they automatically have a potentially global audience.
Though internet stalking and intimidation are often discussed rather lightly, they present very serious threats to organizers wishing to establish their peace organization within a virtual world. I would therefore argue that legitimate peace organizations should refrain from establishing the base of their organization primarily through social networking sites. It is very difficult to control person-to-person interactions within a social networking site, which leaves former victims of violence exposed to the possibility of having to interact with very abusive personalities. This threat can undermine the existence of the group. Thus, peace organizations established wholly through social networking sites are sure to have high attrition.
To combat these possible threats, the virtual face of the organization should be controlled by organizers and senior members. The information should be interactive and informative, but the site should not be structured as a social networking site. Social networking should take place in the real world among group members who have been screened and have demonstrated their commitment to the group’s central ideology.